King MacArthur: Scots lay claim to the legend of the round table

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The Independent Online

For centuries the brave and chivalrous exploits of King Arthur and his knights of the round table have entertained and inspired millions of people around the world who believe the legendary monarch to be the quintessential English hero.

For centuries the brave and chivalrous exploits of King Arthur and his knights of the round table have entertained and inspired millions of people around the world who believe the legendary monarch to be the quintessential English hero.

But on the eve of the release of a new block-buster movie that once again raises the profile of the ancient warrior to iconic status, a new battle is being waged - for the rights to Arthur himself.

For years Tintagel on the north coast of Cornwall has claimed the Celtic chieftain for themselves, branded the area for visitors as "King Arthur Country" and raked in millions of tourist's pounds each year.

However there is pressure from north of the border to reclaim Arthur as a Scot in the same mould as William Wallace and Rob Roy, who earned millions for Scottish tourism on the back of Hollywood films.

A fresh argument put forward by historians not only claims Arthur's birthright but also the location of his grave, his castle, the fabled city of Camelot and even the lake of the legend.

Hugh McArthur, 42, a historian from Glasgow, claims Arthur was Artur MacAeden, a Welsh-speaking prince of the Britons that ruled the region of Strathclyde between the 4th and 11th centuries and fought Saxon invaders in the 6th century.

"There's a lot more evidence that Arthur is from what is now Scotland than that he's from Cornwall which is where most people believe he was from," said Mr McArthur.

In Tintagel, the reaction to the new claims was a little jaded yesterday.

The custodian of King Arthur's Great Halls, Roger Toy, said: "Three weeks ago it was that he was from Russia and last week we had Northumbria. Scotland is a rehash of about three years ago. Nobody's ever proved he exists, how anybody's going to prove where he comes from I don't know."

Chief among Mr McArthur's "evidence" is a 6th century red sandstone sarcophagus in Govan Old Parish Church, near Glasgow which has carved on its side a Celtic-Romano warrior bearing the capital letter A.

According to the Clan Arthur historian, Govan used to be the traditional burial ground for the castle at Dumbarton - which means fortress of the Britons - and was called Castello Artutius, or Arthur's Castle in the 11th century.

"There are at least seven places called Arthur's Seat in Scotland and I'm up to about 40 Arthur places names," said Mr McArthur who also claims that Loch Lomond, which lies a short distance from Dumbarton used to be called "the Lake".

Mr McArthur's claims come as a new Walt Disney-backed film King Arthur, starring Clive Owen as Arthur, Keira Knightley as Guinevere, Ioan Gruffudd as Lancelot and Stephen Dillane as Merlin the wizard, is tipped to become the summer box office hit this year.

Although the Hollywood version claims Arthur was born on the eastern fringes of the Roman empire in Sarmatia, south of modern-day Russia, as Lucius Artorius Castus, before coming to Britain, and the movie was shot in Ireland and America, Scotland's tourist industry bosses are working hard to push the Celtic links.

To coincide with the UK release of the latest blockbuster Scottish Borders Tourism has launched a campaign to highlight areas in which local historians have previously cited evidence they claim points to the Scottish Borders as home to Arthur and his armies.

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